Aug 6, 2018

Bot-finding algorithm sniffs out cryptocurrency scam

Photo llustration by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Researchers at Duo Security have developed an algorithm to hunt Twitter bots at Twitter-sized scale.

Why it matters: On a big social media platform, using humans to hunt automated scam accounts is a particularly difficult game of whack-a-mole. That is exactly the kind of problem Duo's algorithm can help solve. One of the moles it whacked during a testing was a large network of cryptocurrency scammers.

Researchers Olabode Anise and Jordan Wright will present that research later this week at the Black Hat cybersecurity conference. Twitter was responsive when Duo's reported bots, they said.

The big picture: The sheer scope of the bot problem makes it difficult to fight — just ask Elon Musk, who had so many bots using his name to promote cryptocurrency scams that Twitter banned naming accounts after him.

  • The bots in question are unmanned accounts that automatically spew content onto Twitter.
  • Not all bots are malicious. Most aren't. "During testing, one of the things we discovered was a bot that posted song lyrics someone thought were interesting," Anise told Axios.
  • The algorithm does not separate good from evil, just human from machine. Real humans still need to make the final call.

How it works: Duo feeds publicly available data, like how quickly accounts reply to other accounts, screen names, the time of day of posting and data from profiles.

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Scoop: Inside the Trump campaign's big hedge on Facebook

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Trump campaign has invested most of its advertising budget to date on Facebook, testing thousands of versions of ads per day to maximize its spending.

But behind the scenes, a source familiar with the campaign tells Axios, the thinking has shifted: "As everyone can see, we still have strong spending on Facebook, but the percentage of our total media budget [on Facebook] is shrinking."

Trump's revenge tour has the House in its sights

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Saul Loeb/Getty Contributor

In the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections — buoyed by Republican control of both chambers — President Trump viewed campaigning for the House as a lower-tier priority and instead poured his energy into rallying for the Senate.

But after the GOP reckoning in 2018, and experiencing firsthand how damaging a Democratic-led House has been to him, Trump is now personally invested in helping Republicans regain the majority in November, several people familiar with his thinking tell Axios.

Pelosi warns U.S. allies against working with China's Huawei

Nancy Pelosi, Feb. 16. Photo: Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday cautioned U.S. allies against allowing Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei to develop their 5G networks, arguing at the Munich Security Conference that doing so is akin to “choosing autocracy over democracy," CNBC reports.

Why it matters: Pelosi's hawkish stance marks a rare area of agreement with the Trump administration, which believes Huawei is a national security threat because the Chinese government may be capable of accessing its equipment for espionage.

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